Last night, er morning, in one of my frequent bouts of insomnia, I was thrashing about in my bed in a half-haze of would be, could be, should be self-talk. I have been driving myself well past the point of nail biting-furrowed brow-hair pulling-my god my life is a joke- anxiety for some time now. In fact, I think the highway of anxiety has given way to the bumpy dirt off-road of perilous clinical depression with cyclic bouts of insomnia, hyper-somnia, excruciatingly harsh negative self-talk ( my mind likes to play this little movie of every terrible thing that has ever happened to me), and well the whole dirty Petri dish of mental and physical ailments that go along with deep and dark depression. My body aches, even though I don’t do much. My mind is on a loop of “I’ve failed” all the time. No really, all of the time (and can you believe I don’t drink or do drugs..nothing numbing the pain here, well maybe ice cream). I punish myself incessantly for being unemployed. Everything I do, say, think, long for, wish I could have changed, every little damn thing I want to buy (coffee or breath mints or safety pins-NOT in the budget!)–it all circles back to being unemployed right now. Every single thing I do or don’t do is weighted against the fact that I have failed to get a job in my field after some 250 applications and a decade of plugging away at a degree, and that the degree I did earn is not even close to being as impressive as the masters and PhD’s many of my peers have managed to acquire in the same amount of time or less. I feel guilty for laughing even…there’s no laughing in unemployment! Then, of course, I had the “now what” talk with myself. Now what job will I take? Instead of what career will I launch. Pastry chef, court reporter, florist? What? What can I do, if I can’t do what I like, besides work in a cubicle tending to work that makes my brain numb? But everything, no EVERYTHING, is competitive now. There is no niche you can snuggle up to…gone are the little corners of the workplace where one could wander in, look around and say, “why yes, yes, I think I’ll do this…will you train me?” Apprenticeships in the blue collar world are being replaced with expensive certificate programs and no guarantees of placement afterwards. Perhaps if you know somebody in an industry you are interested in, that still works as an “in”, but I am a loner and my networking skills are as smooth as popcorn ceilings. I am so bad at it…actually not just bad, I am completely inept at networking. If I read one more article about job searching and networking…well I don’t know what I would do, but it would probably involve something that would not make me “marketable”. My BS sensibilities just can’t handle it.
And so comes the thoughts of financial stability…health insurance…starting a family…buying a home someday…and those are the big things…never mind the little things stability affords like magazines…road trips…movies on Friday nights…sushi dinners… expensive shampoo and a general good mood. Yes, never mind those things. I have been without them for so long I have learned to let go of much of that, but damn if I don’t miss high-quality hair care and quality food. I damn sure do and I would like them back. And when I think about those things the cubicle starts seeming tolerable…but is that just a mirage…is that just how the whole system is set up…a tricky little pill to be swallowed in desperation?
Perhaps. But the more I absorb stories about how other people approach life and the more I look around without the youthful ticker tape of “I want a career I am in love with” I feel nudged to settle. It is such a pointy precipice. Could I be happy with passions developed outside of a career I enjoy? Will it be a relief to let these lofty notions go? Is letting go of your career dreams growing up or giving up? Am I going through some sort of rite of passage? I am not sure yet.
But as I tossed and turned there was this little part of me that spoke up quickly in a whisper before the unemployed monster beat it down into silence. It said, “be outside of THIS agony”. It seems as though I have, yet again, allowed myself to be programmed to tie my entire self worth into someTHING, in this case what type of job I have (or don’t have as the case is). It seems as though it’s something I fell for, a scam of sorts, much like the notion of upward mobility (despite the battles of socio-economics and cyclic poverty), or the value of a college degree in 2013. And the unemployed monster piped up and said, “well you are just telling yourself that because you are FAILING!”. Perhaps, but either way that little whisper is the one piece of my self worth that is hanging on here. It loves me, it wants me to laugh and find happiness without guilt even if I don’t have a damn job. It wants me to recognize myself as a whole being, not just Laura-unemployed. I have turned off every other part of my life in search and suffering over a job I want to love, and I think I am finally just sick of it. I am not giving up on searching in my field, but I am giving up this constant anxiety reel playing in my mind. I don’t know if I will ever land a job in my field, and if I don’t that is going to hurt, and I will mourn it for a long time.
I can’t continue to put my well-being aside until things go well, and really I think I have been doing this my whole life. I just want to be me, the whole me who used to laugh, cook, dream, listen to music, and do a million other things that have nothing to do with my job status. Just me, not me +1 unemployed monster. It is a cancer and it has got to go.
There is a delicate, maybe even experienced-only, balance between acceptance and seeking. Knowing when to move from one space to the other in your mind is a hard task and a tricky little pill to swallow, but that’s it, I’m getting a glass of water.
Congress has approved an extension for unemployment insurance for 2013, so we get a reprieve for a couple of months. Two more months of a place to live that is our own and two more months to keep looking for work. I got that news shortly after, yet another, job rejection. I interviewed Thursday and received the form letter e-mail rejection on Monday. I have applied to 221 jobs since the end of July and I have gotten six, yes six, whole interviews. I don’t know what I am doing wrong, it seems as though the stars are aligned to fuck me over, as usual. Sometimes I think I was born simply to amuse the universe, as it watches me struggle and get back up, and get kicked down again, and again. When will she stay down? I don’t know. Maybe I will give up soon. I have been approved for food stamps. I am so glad I tried desperately to pull myself out of childhood poverty by working since the age of 16, sometimes working 3 jobs, plugging away at a college degree so that I could end up, at 32, on unemployment and food stamps. It’s just fucking dandy, really. Maybe I should have just dropped out of high school and gotten knocked up. That bizarro world version of me would still be better off than this version of me right now. At least trailer-park-knocked-up-teen-smoker-dropout Laura doesn’t owe 30 thousand dollars in student loans. And while it is in my nature, and well because of a severe case of consuming depression and misery, to blame myself for the outcome of these interviews, there is still a part of me that says, no. No, these interviews were a bit fucked up in their own right, which means I am attracting kooks with my resume. Great. I still have enough objectivity to be able to say that other people really fucking suck a lot of the time, especially during job interviews, when the power balance is so out of whack that the person could basically set you on fire and you would still be trying to smile and make eye contact with them. I need to relive these interviews, if nothing else than to make the anonymous reader chuckle, but also as a catharsis to reassure myself that I am not completely out of touch with reality, and sometimes the interviewer is not all there. So let’s reminisce, shall we.
Interview 1: No Smartphone, No Job
I was so thrilled to get this interview because it was for a magazine I actually enjoy. It was my dream job, editorial assistant at a sizable publication. The interview was done via Skype (the job was in Kansas) and I practiced for days, researching the company and the publication and testing my skype set up for kinks. So interview day comes and the woman interviewing me asked me many questions…from a script. Yes, every single question was from a typed script, and she never bothered (or learned) to make eye contact with the camera. And the questions were fluff crap, such as: would you rather go to the moon or to Europe? Mac or PC? But, the question that killed my chances (I’m pretty sure) was: what type of phone do you have? The job was for the web services team, and part of that job was to work on content for mobile devices and social media accounts. Now, I have a communications degree with a social media emphasis, meaning much of the writing style I was taught was with web 3.0 in mind. But, and BIG BUT, I do not have a smartphone. And to this interviewer it was a death sentence for me. And why don’t I have a smartphone? Well, seeing as how I do not have any income, having food and a roof over my head pulled rank over the newest ifucktard phone. But 20- something-editor just could not wrap her head around the idea that I could STILL write for mobile devices and do the other tasks the job would need without actually having my face stuck in a smartphone 24/7. I am sorry I am poor, you must have no idea what that means, dear interviewer. Well Good For You! She never bothered to follow up, and when I did she told me they were “going in a different direction”, also there were three, yes count them, three openings for the same title…ouch. Me and my no smartless phone self were not good enough for one of three entry-level positions.
Interview 2: Let me tell you about the position, and the company, and never ask you one question about yourself
The second interview I got was for a company in Texas in the compounding pharmacy industry, working in event planning and PR. Not exactly a dream job, but I still gave it the proper preparation and attention and there seemed to be elements of the work I would enjoy. This was a good old fashioned phone interview. I should note that I live in the Seattle area. Seattle is not a city for entry-level people. I have not had one interview for a job here since I graduated, not to mention it is mostly IT, banking and healthcare jobs here, communications is just not a big hub. Non-profit is actually big here too, but I find it funny that an industry that pays the least wants the most education, and prestigious internships, etc. Forget about getting into non-profit work because you want to help and feel good about your work, because apparently you are a cliche and not good enough if you are an average person. Anyhow, all of the jobs I have interviewed for so far have been out of state and in the west. The east coast will not acknowledge my existence, and I get that. It is a too much of a gamble to hire some entry-level person from across the country, even though I am willing to pay for my own relocation. Not to mention there are plenty of people to interview for those jobs who already live nearby. Anyhow, back to this interview. The interviewer was nice enough and the call lasted an hour, but in an hour she never asked me one question about myself, my education or my work experience! The entire time she just gave me all these ridiculous details about the office (like how many floors, the layout, etc.), she spent lots of time telling me what they do and what the expectations were, but she didn’t even ask me the standard “what are your weaknesses” crap. Well, I never heard back from her. I still do not understand this…why contact me for an interview and then ask me nothing?!
Interview 3: Free therapy, and this job sucks, but I couldn’t make it in journalism
This interview was for a retailer of semi-high end comfort type shoes based in California. It was an entry-level marketing assistant position. Within the first minute it was clear that this woman had no idea how to interview someone. There were long pauses, and I had to initiate the line of questioning, and yet again, very little interest in me as a candidate. In fact, this one barely even told me about the job itself. She spent most of the interview telling me that she had hired a recent grad who had never worked before and it was a huge embarrassment for her because the girl did things like throw popcorn over her cubicle, make typos on marketing materials and was a general idiot. I tried to interject that, although I am a new grad, I have years of professional work experience. But then she proceeded to tell me that she isn’t even supposed to be responsible for much of the work she has been doing, and that she used to be an editor at SELF magazine, and that she never thought she would end up in marketing– let alone for a shoe company, but journalism is so competitive and jobs are disappearing…right, okay, so I just listened and listened…and listened. That went on for an hour, and she never asked me anything about my qualifications or how I would handle the job, and of course I never heard from her again.
Interview 4: We are looking for “The Perfect Fit”
This interview held a lot of promise. It was in Washington, about an hour south, in a more affordable city. It was my first in-person post- college interview. I made it through the phone screen with the recruiter and was scheduled to meet with the director of marketing for a bank. Again, banking is not an industry I am interested in, but there were components of the job I was interested in, and it would allow me to strengthen my corporate communication writing skills. I spent 400 dollars prepping for this interview buying a suit, getting a haircut, manicure, and the gas driving down there. I researched and planned, and rehearsed, I even practiced my walk (in case there would be a tour of the office). I get there, I liked what I saw. The director comes to greet me, and oh by the way my team will be interviewing you as well. The recruiter never mentioned this, so while I was mentally prepared to meet with one person, I was now meeting with four people. This was the most professional interview I have had so far. They asked probing questions and there was a give and take to the information, I had them laughing here and there, I thought it had gone well. Then the director asked me what the highest level of math I had taken in college was. Stats. She didn’t like that answer, because the job deals with a lot of data…umm okay I can pull reports and analyze data…do I need to be a math whiz for this? I mean I do have a communications degree, and this is for a job in the COMMUNICATIONS dept. So there was that hiccup, also there were two employees there who seemed friendly and engaged but one was just giving me the bitch-face most of the time, so there was that adding to the anxiety level. Then the interview started to get a little murky, inside jokes were starting to be snickered at and references were made to things I had no idea about…I just tried to smile and nod even though they were not actually talking to me. Despite those couple of odd moments I though the interview went well, it lasted for over an hour. Then it was time for the skills test. Basically it was a 60 question test on grammar and writing aptitude. The director says to me, “okay the test is 60 questions and you have an hour, but I don’t expect you take that long, most people are done in like 30 mins or so.” Okay, no pressure. Well, it took me the full hour. And the test is timed by the computer, it was designed to take one hour. 60 questions, 60 minutes. I answered every question, but I took the full allotted time…and apparently that was no good. I mean I did read some things twice because I wanted to make sure I was right, not fast. The director checks in with me, when I have about 5 questions left, and her tone is like…aren’t you done yet? When I asked about the decision time frame she tells me that it’s “sort of fluid” and they are not sure because they want the “perfect fit”. Well I am not perfect, you are not perfect. No one will ever be a perfect fit, someone will be the best fit, with some perfect components and some things they will have to work around. I am just an average person looking for a fucking job!! I am not perfect, but I don’t completely suck either! I am loyal, a problem solver, creative, funny, passionate about work that I am interested in and still willing to give my full attention to the boring shit about a job too. I can deal with difficult people, I can roll with the punches, I am not a high maintenance employee…seriously…I am just solidly good, not perfect. Well, of course, I didn’t get that job.
Interview 5: The Staffing Service BS
I found an entry-level comm position, in Seattle, to apply to! I was amazed. So I sent off my cover letter and resume. The next morning I got a call from this woman who spoke so fast I felt my heart start to beat faster while I listened. Anyway it turns out she was a recruiter for a staffing service and I discussed the job with her and she told me to come into the staffing office for an interview and to fill out paperwork. I was also asked to complete one of those skills tests online prior to the in-person meeting. Well that could have gone better, but I have not worked as an admin since 2008, so my outlook and excel skills are a bit rusty. So my scores were in the 70 percent range for Word and Outlook and 50ish for Excel. Also, my computer has version 2010, which looks quite a bit different from the 2007 version they used during the test. Well the recruiter never brought up my scores during the meeting. So we are chatting along and I filled out the paperwork and she begins to push me towards temp work, not mentioning the actual job I was interested in, so I stop her and say, look the only reason I came in here was to set up an interview with this company for the job I actually am interested in…remember we discussed it yesterday? I am not opposed to temp work, but if I can get a full time job that is what I want. She nodded and said a bunch of crap, anyway then she says someone from scheduling will call me to set up an interview…and I never heard from anyone in the staffing service again. I tried calling, but I knew it was just a joke and waste of time.
Interview 6: Our office is like a dorm room and we drop the F-bomb frequently
That was one of the first things this interviewer said to me. She then followed up to tell me that they know how to button up and TCB though. So I though okay, well at least they are up front about their work culture. This job was for a coordinator position for a membership organization in the beauty and fashion industry in Arizona. Then she says, unless you have some stellar examples to share from your past work history I am more interested in your internship. Well, okay, if you want to gloss over 10 years of work history and focus on 4 months of unpaid interning….sure. Of course I was able to chat about that for all of three minutes and most of the examples I had to use for the “situation” questions came from my past work, not my internship. The truth is my internship was somewhat of a joke. I did learn some valuable nuggets of information but overall it was fluff and a whole other story. Despite this sort of elitist, your prior work means nothing tone, I thought the interview went okay, she asked me what kind of music I like and we bonded over that and there seemed to be good rapport. But again I had to reassure her several times that I am willing to relocate. FUCK, what do I have to say to convince people. Dear manager who doesn’t think I am really willing to move: I need a fucking job, I would like it to be in the industry I have a 30 thousand dollar degree in, I am willing to live anywhere! My parents are dead, I have no real family connections to speak of, I have not spoken to “friends” in years, except for the occasional Facebook interaction, so I have no emotional ties to a location! And yes, I am engaged but I happen to be the “stable” one in our family when it comes to money and employment…so my spouse is waiting for me to land something so we can get settled, not the other way around! What the fuck else do I need to say to you people?????!!!!!!!!!!! Do not call me if YOU are not sure you want to hire someone from out of state, because I AM SURE I am willing to relocate. Anyway, I just got the rejection e-mail a couple days ago, I think it was a combo of lack of experience and the moving part. How am I supposed to get experience if no one will hire me….and these are FUCKING entry level jobs!!
I am not sure how much more of this I can take, not that I have a choice I suppose.
Life sucks, especially when you start from the bottom. Normally I would end a post with some sort of full-circle hopeful tinge, but I’m all out of that. The worse thing about this entire experience beyond the tangible sense of failure, constant anxiety, hopelessness and stress, is knowing now that upward mobility is an illusion. The worst thing is knowing that hope is a concept sold to the poor as a distraction, and for those of us who actually thought we could move up, well when you get there you realize that the prejudices and unrelenting obstacles thrown at you are enough to make you wish you had never “arrived”.